The NHL Pacific: It's Anything But
The NHL's planned expansion is designed to place two more clubs in the Western Conference.
And woe be unto Las Vegas' initiation. Getting shellacked three games out of four may be the best it could expect, and approaching the 1974-1975 Washington Capitals' record for futility will not be out of the question.
The West is that tough, and the Pacific Division is loaded with heavyweights.
The Anaheim Ducks were one home win away from the Stanley Cup Finals, the Los Angeles Kings fell out of the playoffs, while the Calgary Flames made great strides in 2014-2015. Next season, all three teams -- along with San José and Vancouver -- will be fighting for playoff position, while Edmonton will be improved and Arizona still has a long way to go.
The Ducks will remain a force to challenge for the Cup in 2016. Center Ryan Getzlaf is in his prime while Anaheim has locked up Ryan Kesler for six years. Corey Perry and Frederik Andersen had great playoff runs but coach Bruce Boudreau will not be happy unless they get back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since they won it all in 2007.
Vancouver and Calgary are always about more than the score when they get together, especially when the Flames upset the Canucks in the playoffs. Even in Flame losses, they kept up the intensity:
Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins came in last season to settle things down after a turbulent season under John Tortorella, and the Canucks are primed to make the playoffs again this season. Ryan Miller is a solid goaltender while Daniel and Henrik Sedin still have something left in the tank if they stay injury free.
Coach Bob Hartley has made Calgary relevant again and they will be in the playoff mix. Johnny Hockey -- born as Johnny Gaudreau -- has a great future with the Flames; the 21-year-old had 64 points this season, and he'll again team up with Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler to keep the Flames in every game. Calgary also aquired Dougie Hamilton from Boston, which bolsters their defense while raising pitchforks and torches all over New England:
Los Angeles claimed two Stanley Cups in four years but now just needs to get back into the playoffs after missing out this spring. There are rumors about rifts between the players and coach Darryl Sutter, but with stars like Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Alec Martinez, the Kings can turn it around quickly.
The San José Sharks have apparently tired of being the division's version of St Louis, ie- perennially strong seasons followed by premature playoff exits.
The Blues made waves by moving TJ Oshie, but the Men of Teal looked to ride the wild surf and shift coaches. Out went the quickly in-demand Todd McLellan, and in rode Peter DeBoer, late of the New Jersey Devils. In essence, then, the Sharks have shifted from the Scotty Bowman coaching tree to Lou Lamoriello's. Whether this one takes root remains to be seen.
Sooner or later Edmonton be playoff contenders, as they keep picking up high draft choices, including this seasons' number one, Connor McDavid.
That's all well, good, and fine, but as Spider-Man's late uncle would've said:
|With great tanking come great ticket price increases.|
Fans are gonna have to dig deep this season, and not just because of the snow.